Unlike just about every other company that’s gone public in the United States, Slack Technologies Inc. will do so without one notable takeaway: new cash.
On Thursday, the maker of workplace-messaging software is expected to list its shares directly on the New York Stock Exchange, forgoing an initial public offering that would see the company issue equity in exchange for new funds.
By going this route, Slack will avoid paying multimillion-dollar underwriting fees to Wall Street banks, while existing shareholders – including employees and venture capital firms – will be able to sell shares immediately.
There’s a simple reason why Slack can spurn the traditional IPO process: It already has loads of cash.
In its prospectus, Slack had roughly US$841-million in cash and cash equivalents, and in its most recent fiscal year, it had a negative cash flow of some US$97-million. If Slack continues to burn through cash at the same rate, it could survive more than eight additional years.
Next to some high-profile tech IPOs, that’s an eternity.
For instance, while Uber Technologies Inc. had in excess of US$6-billion ahead of its IPO, that was only enough to last another three years. Two major Canadian IPOs – Shopify Inc. and Lightspeed POS Inc. – each had less than three years’ worth of cash on hand. The need for money was apparent.
Of course, Slack’s circumstances could change. Several companies, including Microsoft Corp., are building out the type of office-communication platforms that could present a challenge. Slack may opt to raise money at a future date.
But for now, the fire hose of venture capital has been enough. Slack has raised US$1.4-billion from investors that include Accel Partners and SoftBank Investment Advisers, according to financing-information website Crunchbase. For the venture capital firms – and the company’s founders – the upside to a direct-listing process is obvious: Their stakes won’t be diluted.
Slack, which will trade under the ticker symbol WORK, is following in the footsteps of Spotify Technology SA, another outlier that did its own direct listing last year.
The music-streaming service was open about not needing new cash. “We deliberately developed our company in a way that enabled us to go public without raising additional money,” said Barry McCarthy, the company’s chief financial officer, in an op-ed for the Financial Times.
Indeed, unlike Slack, Spotify was already cash-flow positive when it went public.